Technically, Padilla isn't in the rotation, although he was the Dodgers' Opening Day starter in 2010 and he probably believes he can beat out Jon Garland for the fifth spot, potentially presenting Don Mattingly with his first dilemma as the new manager.
The Dodgers like the right-hander's versatility and envision him as the ultimate swingman -- capable of spot starting, throwing multiple innings of middle relief or even transitioning to closing if Jonathan Broxton falters.
Padilla is coming off an injury-plagued 2010, when he went 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 2010 and made only 16 starts. He missed two months early in the season with right forearm nerve discomfort and most of the last month with a bulging disk in his neck.
In a strange way, Padilla's injuries are part of the reason the club still wanted him, because injuries in recent years have convinced general manager Ned Colletti that a five-man rotation isn't enough to withstand the anticipated attrition.
When he was healthiest in midseason, Padilla strung together six consecutive quality starts with a 1.30 ERA. An 11-year veteran, he was signed as a free agent during the stretch run of 2009 after being released by the Texas Rangers. He went 4-0 with the Dodgers and stepped up with two dominant starts in the playoffs.
Padilla earned $5.025 million in 2010 and was hopeful of pitching himself into position for a multiyear deal.
Because the Dodgers aren't sure whether Padilla will be a starter, middle reliever or closer, the contract covers all three roles and is one of the most elaborate, incentive-filled in club history.
It begins with a $2 million guaranteed base. As a reliever, Padilla will receive bonuses of $250,000 each for 40 and 50 relief appearances; $500,000 each for 60, 70 and 80 relief appearances; $750,000 each for 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games finished; and $150,000 each for 35 and 45 relief appearances in which he enters games with the Dodgers leading by three or fewer runs.
As a starter, Padilla will receive $1 million for 12 starts and 70 innings pitched; $1 million each for 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30 and 33 starts.
All of the bonuses -- a total of $14.3 million -- are deferred without interest.
Still needing to pass physicals are two other free agents the Dodgers reached agreement with this week -- outfielder Tony Gwynn and catcher Dioner Navarro.